The Synthia Saga: CIPA fights back

The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) in the United Kingdom has already issued a response to the Professor Sulston's rant over the patentability (or otherwise) of Craig Venter's Synthia synthetic life form.

Right (but not on this issue ...): Professor Sulston

Says the CIPA press release:
"Sir John Sulston slams Craig Venter’s ‘excessively broad’ patent applications at Royal Society event

Sir John Sulston, who won a Nobel Prize for his research into genetics, slammed Dr Craig Venter’s application to patent the ‘first synthetic life form’ as part of his wide-ranging critique of the patent system in a discussion at the Royal Society on 24 May.
The event ... brought together four authoritative figures from the worlds of science and intellectual property to discuss the question ‘Who owns science?’ ...
Professor Sulston drew on material used in the Manchester Manifesto, published in 2009, to call for the patent system to be reformed and for governments and society to find alternative models for rewarding scientific research. He also specifically criticised Dr Craig Venter for applying for patents on the artificially created organism, nicknamed Synthia. "I hope very much these patents won't be accepted because they would bring genetic engineering under the control of the J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI),” he said. “They would have a monopoly on a whole range of techniques."

Patent attorney Dr Gordon Wright ... commented on Dr Venter’s application to patent ‘synthetic life’. “Craig Venter’s patent applications are at an early stage of examination,” Gordon Wright said. “They have a long way to go before any patents will be granted. Examination by US examiners has already indicated that the claimed inventions are too broadly defined. In Europe, the breadth of both applications has already been limited by the European Patent Office. Both the US and EPO examination processes can be easily monitored by the public. Anyone can make comments to the EPO on the patentability of the applications, which have to be passed on to the applicant. There is every likelihood that the applications will be significantly restricted in scope before grant".
Says the IPKat, it's good to see a swift and reassuring response from CIPA -- but this is just the start. It is hoped that other responsible pro-patent organisations will pick up the issue and add their support to CIPA and not just hide behind that body's apron-strings. Says Merpel, the UK Intellectual Property Office's Current News page has nothing more recent than July 2009. A comment on this issue would be a great way of kick-starting this service

Other reports: The Great Beyond, Scope
The Synthia Saga: CIPA fights back The Synthia Saga: CIPA fights back Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. I can't help but think of the Action Aid chip; the patent application filed with great hoo-ha to demonstrate the sort of patent application which was so easy to file but which should so clearly be refused.

    The patent application that was, eventually, dropped in the face of serious objections from the Patent Office. Oddly, only the filing was reported, not the eventual refusal of the application.

    I happen to think that there are plenty of ways in which the IP system could usefully be reformed; this might actually happen if the people who called for reforms actually understood the system as it currently stands.

  2. To be fair to Action Aid, the refusal of their patent application to salted chips is clearly stated on their website:

    But they nonetheless seem to believe that the filing made "a serious point". Oh dear me.

  3. the refusal of their patent application to salted chips is clearly stated on their website

    Only because I nagged them until they did! The website spent many years blissfully ignorant of the fact, and they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into adding the acknowledgement!

  4. News is not the only out-of date item on the UKIPO web site. The minutes of the Jan 2010 steering committee meeting have still not been posted, and their disabiity access brochure still only gives information about the Harmsworth House London office that was vacated a year ago. The budget-balancing staff reductions that the UKIPO mentioned in the steering board minutes last year has evidently had a negative impact on things.

  5. Kevin Garnett QC look-a-like!!!


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